September 11: Relevant Questions by Ramzy Baroud

Dandelion Salad

Written by Ramzy Baroud
Atlantic Free Press
Sunday, 16 September 2007

Osama bin Laden has once again managed to occupy the stage and to insist on his relevance to the story of September 11, 2001. In his most recent video message, released by Reuters a few days before the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, bin Laden voiced some typically absurd statements, calling on Americans to embrace Islam and so forth.

What is really worth noting in bin Laden’s message, however, is not the message itself, but the underlying factors that can be deduced from it. First, bin Laden wished to convey that he is alive and well and thus the US military efforts have failed miserably.

Second, his reappearance – a first since October 2004 – will be analyzed endlessly by hundreds of “experts” who will inundate widespread audiences with every possible interpretation – the fact that he looked healthy, that he dyed his beard, that he dressed in Arab attire as opposed to a military fatigue and a Kalashnikov by his side, that he read from a paper and so on.

Conspiracy theorists are already up in arms, some questioning whether the character in the video is bin Laden at all, and others wondering why the tape was promoted by a US terrorist watch group – SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) Intelligence Group – even before its release by Reuters, and why it didn’t make it directly to the various extremist websites first, as is usually the case.

The news and the Internet are already rife with stories that are connected with bin Laden’s re-emergence. A prominent Muslim scholar told Agence France-Press that the dyed beard is a “sign of war” according to the Salafi Islamic school to which bin Laden belongs. Go figure.

Others, who wish to highlight the fact that US security efforts have managed to prevent further attacks on US soil, would rather emphasize factors such as bin Laden not having made any direct threats (a supposed sign of weakness).

Bin Laden has indeed succeeded in diverting attention from the legacy and meaning of September 11 by reducing it to a mere fight between a disgruntled man – whose whereabouts since the Tora Bora Mountains battle in Afghanistan remains uncertain – and a president who dragged his country into a costly, unjustified and unpopular war.

The reality, however, is starkly different from this caricature reductionism, which the experts on “Islamic terrorism” fail to explain. For those who have shaped their careers on deciphering and decoding bin Laden, worrying about the bigger picture would hardly be self-serving.

But indeed there is a bigger picture, one that bin Laden’s message, and the touting of the importance of that message, are unfortunately undermining. While there are lessons that must be gleaned from six years of tragic war, terror and wanton killing and destruction, these lessons hardly include the need for a wholesale conversion of Americans to Islam (one need not pose as an Islamic scholar to claim that such a call is un-Islamic).

For bin Laden somehow to represent existing opposition to President George W Bush’s policy would indeed be very unfortunate and would actually detract from these important lessons.

First, although they repeatedly voice grievances similar to those held by millions of Muslims (and others) around the world, bin Laden and al-Qaeda do not speak for or represent mainstream Muslims. Mainstream Islam has historically been grounded on tolerance and moderation, qualities that bin Laden and his fanatics hardly represent.

Second, extremism in the Muslim world may be on the rise, but this doesn’t pertain to bin Laden and his scarce messages. The obvious fact is that extremism (Muslim or any other) is intrinsically related to areas of conflict and never happens in a vacuum or under stable socioeconomic realities.

A study of suicide bombings and foreign occupations, oppression and radical interpretation of religious (or any ideological) texts, massacres, wanton killings and calls for revenge will show that each of these factors is greatly related to the other.

Third, the war on Iraq was a pre-calculated move that dates to 2002, when US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and his neo-conservative ilk began pushing for forceful and hostile foreign policy. September 11 merely provided the opportunity to justify such a war, even though those terrorists had nothing to do with Iraq.

Fourth, the combination of fear, public panic and war continue to undermine US democracy. Under the guise of an ill-defined “war on terror”, Americans have paid an irreversible price – more Americans have died in Iraq than did in the September 11 attacks; the numbers of Americans wounded in Iraq top 20,000; Americans are spied on; people with integrity are losing their jobs for taking a moral stance and opposing the Bush administration; respected intellectuals are questioned at airports and community groups of conscientious citizens are monitored as security threats.

Fifth, it is America’s war on Iraq, underreported killing fields in Afghanistan and blind support and financing of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine that largely fuel terrorism and extremism and which are costing the US its so-called battle for “hearts and minds”.

The obvious truth is that such a battle can never be won when a million Iraqis are killed and 4 million are made homeless in their own country. No “hearts and minds” can be captured when Palestinians are killed in Israel’s “routine” daily missions in Gaza and the West Bank, or when poor Afghan peasants are blown to bits in random “searches” for bin Laden.

Indeed, it is in the Bush administration’s interest for bin Laden to disseminate his messages at a time when some important and overdue questions ought to be asked. It isn’t bin Laden and his dyed beard that should be flashing on our screens on this tragic day, but the disgraced faces of those who exploited the tragedy of a stricken nation to inflict tragedies on others.

September 11 should be a day on which we remember those who died in New York, near Washington and in Pennsylvania, and also in Kabul, Baghdad and Gaza, so that we can work together at bringing all the culprits to account.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about Baroud at his website ramzybaroud.net.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Managing Consent – The Art of War, Democracy and Public Relations By Ramzy Baroud

Dandelion Salad

By Ramzy Baroud
08/20/07 “
ICH

It is Edward Bernays who fine-tuned the art of public relations in the 20th century. Using many of the psychoanalytic theories put forward by his uncle Sigmund Freud, he developed a mastery of public manipulation, suggesting that such manipulation was essential to democracy itself. Bernays strongly believed that people are simply “stupid” and in need of being told how to behave, what to believe, what to eat, what to wear, and how to vote. The outcomes of such an experiment reverberate to this day.

Some historians credit Bernays’s efforts in the 1920s and 1930s for turning the modern citizen into a modern consumer. Not only did he convince Americans that a “hearty breakfast” must include eggs and bacon, as opposed to the traditional toast and coffee, he also managed to convince women at the time that cigarettes were a symbol of man’s power and domination; to challenge the male sense of superiority, women needed to smoke. A few public stunts later, sales of cigarettes (which Bernays termed “torches of freedom”) soared, eventually doubling the market for tobacco manufacturers, who, among many other businesses, were Bernays’s clients.

It was only natural that such tactics would soon become politicized. Various presidents and presidential candidates utilized Bernays’s theories and services in the interests of power and profit, though some did try to outset the increasing influence of big businesses on American democracy. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the early 1930s – which purported to reengage the citizen as a vital component in a functioning democracy – was resented by the corporations, and they ferociously fought to win consumers back and defeat the democratic initiative. Ultimately, they succeeded.

Freud argues that a person’s subconscious desires would be utterly violent and sadistic if uncontrolled; his nephew suggested the cure was to curb these desires in a way that generated immense profits.

It didn’t take long for Bernays’s tactics to be applied in US foreign policies. Guatemala is a textbook example; when the country was ready to embrace serious popular change in the 1950s, with democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz implementing equitable land reforms that ran counter to the interests of the US United Fruit Company (which was naturally unwilling to concede its highly profitable “Banana Republic”), media manipulators in the US immediately set about to convince Americans that Arbenz somehow posed a threat to American democracy. A CIA-engineered coup deposed the elected president and installed its operative Castillo Armas, who was hailed by visiting US vice president Richard Nixon as a “liberator.”

Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents argues that a person’s subconscious desires would be utterly violent and sadistic if uncontrolled; his nephew suggested the cure was to curb these desires in a way that generated immense profits. Successive US administrations have taken note, and their greatest achievement has been to exploit the subconscious factors that infuse fear and paranoia among the masses. Wars have been waged, regimes overthrown, and bombs dropped in the midst of sleeping populations, all in the name of democracy. What Bernays brazenly dubbed “managing consent” – and Chomsky and Herman more honestly referred to as “manufacturing consent” – remains the defining factor that subverts true democracy in the US, and it often leads to the most violent consequences in countries that fall under the US sphere of influence.

Despite serious public efforts to counter the anti-democratic union between the state and corporations in the 1960s and 1970s, the latter managed to prevail, using direct repression at times, but also by underhandedly exploiting the same discontented popular movements to promote their ideas and products. This tactic has manifested itself invariably every time a discord between the state and corporation on one hand and the people on the other took place.

A more recent example is the way in which President George W. Bush has constantly attempted to manipulate to his advantage the anti-war movement that opposed his 2003 war and invasion of Iraq. His logic – also used by former British prime minister Tony Blair – was simple, yet most deceptive: The war in Iraq is aimed at achieving the same kind of democracy that allows millions of Americans to disagree peacefully with their government without facing the persecution they suffer under Saddam.

While one finds laughable the deduced notion that Iraqis are now reaping the benefits of democracy, one can hardly deny that Bush’s logic took hold among many, even those opposed to the war. Such dialectics managed to shift the debate in many circles from the illegitimacy of the war and its true intentions to altruistic arguments about how “the world is better off without Saddam.” This type of manipulation is anything but new and is hardly exclusive to the Iraq case.

Since World War II, the US government and corporate America have carried the democracy banner whenever they sought war and profits. While doing so, the CIA has managed to topple many popular, democratic governments around the world, replacing them with handpicked, puppet regimes. The Palestinian elections in January 2006 were the closest the region had seen of true democratic elections in many years, and yet the fact that it was Hamas – who violently fought the Israeli military occupation and who strongly opposed US policies in the region – was elected to power justified an entire population being starved, physically confined, and violently oppressed by Israel, with the full support of the US and the world’s banking system. The Palestinian experiment is unlikely to conclude soon, but the outcomes have been utterly devastating thus far.

Edward Bernays’s direct influence is long gone, but his ideas continue to define the relationships between the corporations, the American state, and the consuming citizen, and even the relationships between the state-corporations’ union and the rest of the world. The carefully managed relationships have undermined democracy and unleashed sadistic wars and uncontrollable violence, of which Freud had warned, but which his nephew shamelessly exploited.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about him on his website: www.ramzybaroud.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.
see:

The Century Of The Self by Adam Curtis (Parts I-!V; vids)

Alberto Gonzales and Coup Against Democracy By Ramzy Baroud


Dandelion Salad
By Ramzy Baroud
08/03/07 “ICH

The name of Alberto Gonzales is rapidly becoming synonymous with all that has gone wrong under the Bush administration. Repeated media discussions of the US Secretary of State in the most contentious tones have served to lay the blame for all the ailments that infected American democracy under Bush squarely on one man’s shoulders.

President Bush himself, Gonzales’ loyal boss, friend and the hand behind all the stunts and tricks that Gonzales so indefatigably performed to defend and justify the unjustifiable, remains immune to any meaningful criticism.

Bush is well known for his habit of awarding sensitive posts to old friends, as if the prime objective of the president of the United States is to protect the administration’s secrets and rubber stamp whatever compulsive policies he and his self-serving neoconservative associates concoct. Although appointed to the post in February 2005, Gonzales has been a member of Bush’s team for years; he served as Bush’s General Counsel from 1994 to 1997, when the president was governor of Texas. Then, he served as Secretary of State for Texas for two years, before going on to join the state’s Supreme Court. Finally he worked with Bush again for five consecutive years as White House Counsel. Considering the president’s reputation of favouritism and staunch loyalty to those faithful to him, Gonzales’ ascension to the 80th Attorney General of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, only seemed a natural progression.

True, Bush’s loyalty cannot be contested; however, it is really the only attitude that can be expected of him towards individuals with too much knowledge of sensitive matters that he wouldn’t desire to become public. Gonzales’ successful, albeit illegal, efforts to help Governor Bush be excused from jury duty in 1996 (made possible by the convenient overlooking of the 1976 misdemeanour drunk driving case) is merely the tip of the iceberg. While the latter was exposed during the 2000 presidential campaign, there are many facts which can easily be deduced to fall in the realm of ‘known unknowns’, to borrow a favourite term of former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

While the Bush administration had innumerable spin doctors, Gonzales was the man who knew the law well and thus knew how to manipulate it well. He played a major role in abusing the same laws that he once vowed to safeguard; the total politicization of the Justice Department and the dismissal of the eight attorneys who had the courage to question the constitutionality of the administration’s conduct in December 2006.

Perhaps Gonzales’ unwarranted acts have generated a lot more attention in the last a few months as both Democrats and Republicans are in need of a punching bag, where Bush and Cheney have proved untouchable. Another reason could be that Gonzales’ past legal concoctions were justified as part of the administration’s ‘war on terror’: so what if Gonzales had to circumvent national and international law – repeatedly and unabashedly – to ‘save American lives’?

And circumvent the law Gonzales most certainly did. Starting with the drafting of Executive Order 13233 in November 1, 2001, which restricted the Freedom of Information Act, and thus access to records of former presidents – to his arguments that effectively cancelled Article III of the Geneva Convention, denying suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban militants held in Camp X-Ray the right to be treated as combatants – to his re-interpretation of the principles of the Geneva Convention that made possible the case for the torture and humiliation of Iraqis and others. Gonzales’ role in the Bush administration’s war on democracy at home, and his imperial war abroad, is unquestionable.

Gonzales is still around precisely because of this role, not in spite of it.

Gonzales’ July 24 appearance before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee was a disgrace by any standards. Even Republican members of the committee rightly doubted the man’s integrity, and the testimony made by a Gonzales subordinate, FBI Director Robert Mueller, contradicted his boss’ own accounts. Members of both parties are now up in arms; Republicans fear that Gonzales’ sinking reputation will harm their political positions further, and Democrats, not daring to take on the President himself, are instead confronting a man who was merely responsible for providing the legal wrapping for the administration’s illegal acts.

Tom Raum, an analyst with the Associated Press, reasoned that Bush continues to stand by discredited Gonzales because his advisors “are mindful of the fact that it could be next to impossible to win Senate confirmation this late in his term for any possible replacement.” Indeed, the department’s No.2, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty has just resigned; his decision is attributed to his role in the dismissal of the dissenting attorneys; another, William Mercer, withdrew his nomination for the department’s third-highest job in June, knowing fully that his nomination would be rejected by the Senate, according to the New York Times’ Philip Shenon and Jim Rutenberg. They quote Rich Galen, a GOP consultant: “There is a body of thought among Republicans that gives Gonzales great credit for drawing fire and putting up with it so the others in the Bush Cabinet can do their jobs. Because, if Gonzales is gone, they (Democrats) will just look for a new guy to go after.”

Whether or not Democrats find their “new guy”, the horrific violations of international human rights and of the US constitution will continue unabated, further ravaging the standing of the oldest Republic, and turning into shreds a democratic system that was once a torch of hope to aspiring democracies everywhere.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of www.PalestineChronicle.com  . His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide, including the Washington Post, Al Ahram Weekly, Le Monde Diplomatique and Japan Times. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about him on his website: www.ramzybaroud.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Bush’s Real Agenda in Palestine By Ramzy Baroud


Dandelion Salad

By Ramzy Baroud
07/28/07 “ICH

The Hamas government crackdown on Mohamed Dahlan’s corrupt security forces and affiliated gangs in the Gaza Strip in June appears to mark a turning point in the Bush administration’s foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel. The supposed shift, however, is nothing but a continuation of Washington’s efforts to stifle Palestinian democracy, to widen the chasm separating Hamas and Fatah, and to ensure the success of the Israeli project, which is focussed on colonising and annexing what remains of Palestinian land.

It’s vital that we keep this seemingly obvious reality at the forefront of any political discussion dealing with the conflict: the occupied Palestinian territories represent a mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine. Currently, Israel is on a quest to reduce this even further by officially conquering the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Gaza is only relevant to this issue insofar as it represents a golden opportunity to divide Palestinians further, to confuse their national project and to present a grim picture of them as an unruly people who cannot be trusted as peace partners to the far more civilised and democratic Israelis.

By prolonging Gazan strife, thus the Palestinian split, Israel will acquire the time required to consolidate its colonial project, and to further rationalise its unilateral policies vis-à-vis matters that should, naturally, be negotiated with the Palestinians.

Moreover, one must not lose sight of the regional context. The Israeli lobby and its neo- conservative allies in the US administration and in the media are eager for a military showdown with Iran, which would weaken Syria’s political standing in any future negotiation with Israel in regards to the occupied Golan Heights, and which would obliterate the military strength of Hizbullah, proven to be the toughest enemy Israel has ever faced in its decades-long conflict with the Arabs.

Thus, its was of paramount importance for Hamas’s “rise” to be linked directly to its relations with Iran; such ties, although greatly exaggerated, are now readily used as a rationale to explain Bush’s seemingly historic move from backing Israel from a discreet distance (so as not to appear too involved) to initiating an international peace conference aimed solely at isolating Hamas, which would further weaken the Iranian camp in the Middle East.

It also explains the abundant support offered by autocratic Arab regimes to Abbas, and Arab leaders’ warnings about the rise of an Iranian menace. On the one hand, eliminating Hamas would send an unambiguous message to their own political Islamists; on the other, it’s a message to Iran to back off from a conflict that has long been seen as exclusively Arab-Israeli. The irony is that to ensure the relevance of the Arab role in the conflict, some Arabs are making historic moves to normalise with Israel, and in return for nothing.

Similarly, to ensure its own relevance, Abbas’s Fatah is actively coordinating with Israel to destroy its formidable opponent, which represents the great majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories and arguably abroad. For this, assistance is required: money to ensure the loyalty of his followers, weapons to oppress his opponents, political validation to legitimise himself as a world leader, and new laws to de-legitimise the legal, democratic process that produced the Hamas victory of January 2006. In a conflict that is known for its agonisingly slow movement, nothing short of a miracle can explain how Abbas received all of these perks at an astronomical speed.

The moment Abbas declared his arguably unconstitutional emergency government, the suffocating sanctions were lifted — or more accurately, on the West Bank only. To ensure that no aid reaches anyone who defies his regime, Abbas’s office revoked the licences of all NGOs operating in Palestine, making it necessary for them to submit new applications. Those loyal to Abbas are in. The rest are out.

Weapons and military training have also arrived in abundance. Palestinians who have been denied the right to defend themselves, and for decades described as “terrorist”, are suddenly the recipients of many caches of weapons coming from all directions. Israel announced a clemency to Fatah militants; the freedom fighters turned gangsters will no longer defend their people against Israeli brutality, but will be used as a militant arm ready to take on Hamas when the time comes.

As for regional and international legitimacy, the Bush administration “decided” to change its policy to one of direct engagement, calling for an international Middle East peace conference. The conference will be about peace in name only, for it will not deal with any of the major grievances of the Palestinians that have fuelled the conflict for years, such as the problem of refugees, Jerusalem and the drawing of borders. Israel is of course willing to “concede” if these efforts will reframe the conflict as exclusively Palestinian, and as long as there is no objection to its illegal annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The reality is that there has been no change in American foreign policy regarding Palestine. The US, Israel and a few Arab regimes are pursuing the same old policy, which is merely being adjusted to fit the new political context.

While Abbas and his men might bask in the many bonuses they are receiving in exchange for their role in destroying the Palestinian national project, the future will prove that Israel’s “goodwill gestures”, the support of the Israeli lobby in Washington, and the latter’s generosity will not last. Abbas could as easily find himself a prisoner in the basement of his own presidential compound, just like his predecessor, if he dares assert the legitimate rights of his people, by far the ultimate losers in this shameless battle.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com . His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide, including the Washington Post, Al Ahram Weekly and Le Monde Diplomatique. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about him on his website: www.ramzybaroud.net
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Alternative Media: Free Speech is Still Possible by Ramzy Baroud

Saturday, 14 July 2007
by Ramzy Baroud

To speak of an alternative media is to acknowledge the deficiency of the prevailing media, the mainstream, in addressing the issues, catering to the concerns, and responding to the woes of the general public, the overwhelming majority of people who are almost completely disregarded by the corporate media everywhere.

It is disheartening, to say the least, that at a time of unpopular wars, corrupt elites and a widening gap between rich and poor, the corporate media still finds it tasteful to follow the mischievousness of Paris Hilton, now that Britney Spears is getting back in shape after her drug mishaps, or discuss at length and tirelessly the most recent scandals or spectacular performances at Britain’s Big Brother or American Idol.

This is, of course, problematic if one is to consider the role of the citizenry in sustaining a healthy democracy, which itself requires an educated and well-informed public. When the public sphere becomes a puppet in the hands of the corporate media, whose profits and losses are often determined by friendly relations with the state, then a meaningful change in the lives of peoples of democratic societies is simply untenable.

Corporate Media

The corporate media is, by definition, forged and sustained with corporate funds, by wealthy individuals whose objective is to amass more wealth, rather than ensure that freedom of speech serves as a guarantor for personal and collective freedom, social cohesion – as opposed to alienation – and democracy. Unlike theocratic or authoritarian societies, which simply stifle freedom of expression altogether, the conduct of the media in Western societies is legitimate from a legal standpoint: it violates no written rules, but the end result is the same. In Taliban’s Afghanistan, people knew little of the outside world because TVs and satellite dishes were tabooed. In the US, most people, no matter how will intended, also know little of the outside world. Their perception is almost entirely concocted based on bits and pieces from CNN’s sound bites, Jay Leno’s comedy and Hollywood’s stereotypes.

But it should be recognized that democratic societies, although being robbed in so clever a way from their own meaningful democratic platforms are more than capable of tipping the balance in favor of free speech – as opposed to nations that are violently coerced not to exercise the same right. Indeed, the more the US administration and its corporate media benefactors attempt to consolidate their control over public opinion, under various pretenses, notwithstanding, the need for unity in the ‘war on terror’ – thus justifying the ostracizing of dissidents – the more agitated Americans insist on their right to exercise their free speech, refusing to succumb to the new skewed logic of the time. Thus, the need for an alternative media.

Increasingly so, alternative media is breaking away from being a mere local expression of dissent, and is emergent as global initiatives; from international newspapers to progressive publishing houses, there is indeed an intense and genuine effort at countering the corporate media in a collective and equally global fashion. I spoke with two leading individuals whose work is felt around the world, but still, require the support of the public for their missions to truly succeed.

Wendy Kristianasen, the editorial director of LMD, Le Monde Diplomatique’s English edition, told me: “I think it comes down to this: we publish wonderful writing that illuminates the state of the planet in a fresh way. LMD specializes in the very best journalism – things nobody knows about until after we’ve exposed them and important stories other papers miss altogether. And the analysis is sharp, and authoritative.”

“Everyone has heard of Le Monde Diplomatique, they know of it as the famous Paris monthly, radical and independent. What they don’t know is that the paper has dozens of foreign editions around the world, in thirty languages, making for a global readership of one and a half million.” One of its many foreign editions is, of course, in English, and it can be easily obtained from www.mondediplo.com.

Dr. Roger van Zwanenberg is the Chairman and Publisher of Pluto Press Limited (www.plutobooks.com). This tireless individual, through his company, disseminates scores of most valuable books to countless bookstores and academic institutions the world over. His office on London’s Archway Road is reminiscent of a dungeon, but a lot of good comes out of it.

He commented during a recent conversation: “Pluto is 20 years old this year. We are a dying breed, an independent book publisher producing 60 new, non-fiction, books a year. In a world where book publishing and selling are part of the great global media conglomerates, Pluto struggles to remain viable and alive. Our niche, our rationale and our advantage in the marketing place of the world, is that we tackle the great issues of our day… the grandeur of Imperialism, war and peace locally and globally, the tyranny of oppression, and the domination of one people by another…. the great issues as seen through socialist writers’ eyes. Our readers expect not only relevant books, high quality professional production, and modest prices. This is what our house proudly stands for, and why we have a good chance to succeed to remain against the odds of a globalized world.”

Online, CounterPunch.org remains one of the most important and respectable commentary website anywhere. But since no single article can give a full account of the best alternative media available today, CommonDreams.org is an excellent place to start; this homepage list of alternative media is simply exhaustive.

It’s important to note that the success or failure of the alternative media is wholly reliant on the engagement and the support of the public, who would, ultimately have to make a choice: what issues to care about? What books to read? What music to listen to? And what news are worthy of attention: health coverage, education, war and peace, or Paris Hilton’s prison fiasco? The choice is ultimately ours.

-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian author and journalist. His latest volume: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press: London) is available at Amazon.com. He is the editor of PalestineChronicle.com and can be contacted at editor@palestinechronicle.com

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

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Favorite Websites and Blogs

The Palestinian Left: A Lost Opportunity for Relevance by Ramzy Baroud

by Ramzy Baroud
Global Research, July 8, 2007

When Hamas members were elected as the majority bloc of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and as it became apparent that a US-led international embargo would be an adjoining price to that victory, I contacted many intellectuals and writers in Palestine, mostly those who often positioned themselves as part of the Palestinian Left. I asked them to solidify behind the collective choice of the Palestinian people and to shield Palestinian democracy at any cost.

An exact paragraph in my appeal was the following: “This is the first time in our history that a leadership is chosen from our midst to lead the way forward, chosen by our downtrodden, poor and dispossessed. I have no illusions that the current Parliament is not an expression of a truly democratic experience since no true democracy can take roots under occupation, and I am equally clear on the fact that the Council doesn’t represent but a minority of our people, but there is no denial in the fact that there is a great hope in seeing refugees, members of humble families, elementary school teachers and the working class claiming their rightful position as community leaders. Regardless of how the US wishes to interpret such a collective act, it is important that we defend it by articulating the realities in Palestine as they are, not as the mainstream media so readily misrepresents it.”

This was in response to my initial reading that the Hamas government was losing the battle at the media front. The reason was simple: they possessed neither the experience nor the even-handed platform to reach out to international media to articulate their position in any convincing shape or form. Knowing this, and also aware of the political polarization in Palestine, I feared that the battle of articulation would be formulated around the theme of Hamas vs. Fatah, or Islamic government vs secularism, which indeed proved to be the case.

As someone who defines himself as a secular humanist, I didn’t interpret the debate in Palestine as such, and I believe the bulk of Palestinian intellectuals in Diaspora – something I am very proud of – also used a similar line of logic: the debate for me was that of genuine democracy facing early abortion as a result of a most sinister union that brought together many world governments, Israel and corrupt Palestinians. Nonetheless, the irate response was comprehensible. The Palestinian vote was a collective act of epic proportions that eradicated, almost instantly, the Bush administration’s charade of the Great Middle East Democracy Project, itself an extension of the old New Middle East Project of the late 1990’s. The US government tailored a specific project, which included a pretence democracy which would serve its long-term interests in the region and position itself as the protector of the people’s will for many years to come, now that its declared aims in Iraq completely faltered.

Internally, the elections also meant that Palestinians — terrorized for six decades by the Israeli army, and as of late, by the Israel-backed Palestinian ‘security’ branches and their warlord-like bosses – still possessed the strength to fight back and insist on their right to defy the status quo. It was one of the most potent non-violent victories achieved by the Palestinian people, compared only to their First Uprising of 1987.

Following the elections, the movement’s leadership insisted on governing in accordance to the norms of democracy and civil society, and quickly issued calls for all Palestinian groups to join in forming a unity government.

Fatah refused. No surprises there. But why did the so-called Palestinian Left refuse to take part in the government as well – despite their insignificant popularity among Palestinians — an act that could’ve served Palestinian democracy in more ways than one?

In the early weeks and months, following Hamas lonely ascent to power in March 2006, we began seeing respected Palestinian intellectuals making some disturbing statements to the media, attacking Hamas as if it’s some alien body, shipped from Tehran, and thus, affectively, validating the international embargo. I had, at times, shared stage with many of those people, proudly, at international forums; some even posed as socialists and spoke fervently of the collective fight against international imperialism and the need to activate civil society in the fight against injustice and so forth. The Hamas victory had indeed exposed the chasm between words and actions, between national priorities and ideological and even individual rigidity and limitations. When Hamas entered into rounds of talks with Palestinian ‘socialist’ groups, I was most certain that the latter would appreciate the intensity of the challenge and would take part in a unity government even if a union with a religious grouping stands at odds with its overall principals. I thought, the situation is too grave for superficial manifestos and party programs to stand in the way. I was wrong.

Following the armed resistance of the 1970’s in Gaza, led, partly, by various socialist groups, there was no truly popular left that appealed to a large segment of the Palestinian popular imagination. Although some of these groups held on truly principled stances opposing Oslo, for example, they remained largely confined to university campuses, spotted in urban centres as artists, academics and middle class – and sometimes upper class – intellectuals.

The bizarre twist is that Hamas, by a practical definition, is much closer to socialist principals than the urban ‘socialist’ intellectuals.

By defending Hamas and the democratic will of Palestinians, I’ve hardly felt as if I was deviating from of my own principles. My letter to the Palestinian Left hardly generated any response — my communications with progressives in the West generated much greater enthusiasm. Now that the split between Hamas and Fatah has elevated to almost a geographic split as well – a complete departure from the Palestinian national objectives, many in the Left are still parroting old mantras, still fighting for irrelevant appearances on BBC, making demands on Hamas and using such terms as a ‘coup against Palestinian democracy’.

There was hardly a Palestinian Left to begin with; they lost the only opportunity that could’ve made them relevant, and now they continue to pander to the status quo, yet posing as the wise ones in an ocean of dim-witted multitudes: the precise definition of intellectual elitism.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian American writer, editor of PalestineChronicle.com and author, most recently, of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London, 2006)

Ramzy Baroud is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Ramzy Baroud


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Finding Lessons in Gaza’s Bloodshed by Ramzy Baroud

Finding Lessons in Gaza’s Bloodshed

by Ramzy Baroud
Global Research, June 30, 2007

The Hamas-Fatah clash that has culminated into a mini-civil war in recent weeks is both old and new, and while some of its elements are uniquely Palestinian, much of it was manufactured at the behest of US-Israeli intelligence and governments.

The tensions between Fatah and Hamas are decades old. Fatah has – since the late 1960s until today – claimed a superior, if not exclusive, position at the helm of Palestinian politics. At times there seemed little margin for any other organization – be it secular, socialist or religious – to share a platform with Yasser Arafat’s movement.

Throughout the years, Fatah ensured the relevance of Palestinians to their own struggle. It’s important, therefore, that Fatah is not seen as one monolithic body. Fatah security chief Mohammed Dahlan and the likes have tainted the reputation of Fatah forever, but the movement and its decades-long struggle must not be reduced to these individuals. With Fatah through its hegemony within the Palestine Liberation Organization being the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” for so many years, Hamas’ rise was never accepted as part of the fold.

The second Palestinian uprising of 2000 can be seen as a revolt against Israel and its occupation, but also against those who did its bidding among Palestinians – the shameful legion of Palestinians whose wealth grew to unprecedented levels as the great majority were steeped further in poverty.

Such shamelessness fostered support for Hamas among ordinary Palestinians, and in January 2006, Hamas swept the polls, to its own surprise and the surprise of many. The elites and wealthy few had espoused a society that was governed by brutality, nepotism and favoritism and was unabashedly managed with the help of Israel. Hamas was the only serious alternative: its anti-corruption record and the tough fight it displayed against Israel made it deserving of the responsibility from the ordinary Palestinian’s point of view.

Though Palestinians were ready to give Hamas a chance, the US government, Israel, various Arab regimes and Fatah were not. The latest weeks in Gaza, the tragedy of killings and brutality there, all attest to the lengths the US and Israel are willing to take to keep Hamas at bay.

What took place in Gaza was tragic, but the question remains. Considering the circumstances at the time, did Hamas and Fatah have other options that could have allowed them to achieve their objectives peacefully?

I think there was enough determination on both sides to prevent a civil war at any cost, thus the agreement in Mecca. However, US officials entrusted with ensuring the failure and collapse of the unity government and the utter corruption among Fatah’s self-serving security circles made good intentions simply extraneous.

The violence was heartbreaking, especially when one read the details: people getting thrown from the top of high buildings and summary executions. Palestinians were caught in many violent episodes in the past, but this one is most tragic, for it took place under the watchful eye of Israel, which mercilessly continued to kill Palestinians, young and old at the same time that Palestinians were killing one another.

Now that the tragedy has occurred, one can only hope that common sense and sanity will return and for Palestinians to rediscover, once more, that they are still an occupied nation that has no meaningful political sovereignty.

Unfortunately, the US government and Israel remain most relevant in determining the course of action in Palestine, and naturally, they continue to infuse much harm. Israel is now scheduled to hand back the money it stole from the Palestinians in the form of taxes collected on their behalf to Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, while declaring it intends to tighten the siege on the already besieged and utterly poor Gaza.

Even personal money transfers, Western Union and the like, will be halted to ensure the total suffocation of Gaza. The US will pumping tens of millions of dollars into hand Abbas’ hands, and Fatah’s warlords – rampaging against Hamas institutions in the West Bank – will also receive more than their fair share of money and weapons. It is quite simple to understand the underlying intents of this generosity after a year and a half of embargo, or to picture the horrible scenario that will result from an empowered, corrupt and vengeful regime.

Israel is committing itself to ensure that the friction among Palestinians will destroy their national project in the West Bank as well. Fatah will now be allowed to do what Israel has failed to do over six decades of occupation.

Despite the painful nature of this conflict, one can only hope that some valuable lessons can be gleaned from all of this, not just by Palestinians alone, but by others who endure along with them the meddling of superpowers and whose democracy is a constant target.

First, Gaza has exposed, like no other experience in modern history, the hypocrisy of the US government’s democracy charade; if it was true democracy that the United States was seeking, it would have acknowledged the Palestinian people’s collective will and fostered dialogue with their representatives, as opposed to starvation and blockade and covert operations to topple the government.

Second, corruption, although temporarily rewarding, is never lasting, and the people, although forgiving and patient at times, have the ability to withstand pressure, to prevail and force change, even if violently.

Third, proxy politics is most harmful, in Palestine and elsewhere.

Palestinian leaders must learn that selling one’s political will to foreign polities for the sake of money, power or political substantiation is unforgivable in the eyes of ordinary Palestinians. After all, it’s those “ordinary” people who have stood up and confronted the awesome powers of Israel, the US and the corruption and brutality of some of their own for many decades. They will continue to do so no matter how high the price may be. Freedom for Palestinians is more precious than bread, no matter how irrational this may sound.

Gaza might have descended into chaos for a few weeks or months, but so also has the US agenda championed by the remnants of the neo-conservative clique in the administration of President George W Bush, which stubbornly fails to operate outside the parameters of the doctrine of violence, secrecy, conspiracies and military coups.

They refuse to knowledge that it is not weapons that Palestinians want. It is simply freedom.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com; his latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

 Global Research Articles by Ramzy Baroud


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The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com

© Copyright Ramzy Baroud, Global Research, 2007

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6195